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Former UNC System President Thomas Ross is joining a New York think tank founded by Paul Volcker to help rebuild trust and pride in government and other public institutions.

Ross will be president of the Volcker Alliance, started in 2013 by the former Federal Reserve Board chairman who is credited with helping pull the U.S. economy out of a tailspin in the 1980s. He starts July 1 at the group, which has about a dozen employees.

“The strains and pressures on government at all levels are plain to see,” according to a statement from Volcker, 89. “Tom Ross’s broad experience in education, government, and philanthropy will be brought to bear on all our efforts to improve government performance.”

One of the group’s missions is to work with major universities and scholars to build support for research that improves the performance of government. “In all those areas, Tom has knowledge and skills in building relationships and brings leadership to our efforts. I am very glad to have him come to New York and lead the organization,” said Volcker, who led the Fed from 1979-87.

Ross retired after six years as UNC president in January after the system’s 32-member board voted last year to seek new leadership. Ross, 65, emphasized he wanted to continue in the job, but the board cited the tradition of past system presidents, including investment banker Erskine Bowles and investor C.D. Spangler, who had limited their tenures to five years.

Ross’ retirement sparked criticism from a wide spectrum, including one of the system’s largest donors, Wilmington pharmaceutical-company founder Fred Eshelman, a Republican who called Ross’ departure “a real loss.” Ross is a Democrat who took the UNC post in 2011 when Beverly Perdue was governor. Now, virtually all of the UNC board members are Republicans appointed by North Carolina’s leadership, including Gov. Pat McCrory, House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger.

Margaret Spellings, former U.S. Secretary of Education under President George W. Bush, started as UNC’s president on March 1.

Volcker Alliance board members include former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, former Fed Vice Chair Alice Rivlin, former FDIC Chair Sheila Bair and Thomas Davis, a former Republican congressman from Virginia.

Before heading the 17-member UNC System, Ross was president of Davidson College, chief executive officer of the Winston-Salem-based Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and, for 17 years, served as a superior court judge in North Carolina.

David Mildenberg
David Mildenberg is editor of Business North Carolina. Reach him at dmildenberg@businessnc.com.
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